Monday, January 31, 2011

Christmas Worth Reliving

Hey I know it’s the last day of January, but I’ve driven past several windows on my road the last couple of nights that have stale Christmas tree silhouettes still outlined in these procrastinator’s homes.  I think I can get away with one last sliver of that holiday cheer we seem to wait so long for, yet disappears so quickly with December’s 31 short days.  So cozy up next to hot cocoa and get the red fuzzy wreath socks out one last time…


A woman walked into the cute nook of Annie’s Hallmark in Western New York on a Buffalo-cold kind of December day, a day I bet $100 entailed the emotions of the Bills and the Sabres faithfully losing that weekend, but she had high hopes for purchasing some holiday cards and festive wrapping paper.  I love how that store’s contents can transform your present into something that looks like Oprah wrapped it for you.  Let’s just call her Jane for anonymity reasons and honor the middle name of our babe known to Troy as “Little J”.  Jane browsed the store and does what everyone does – opens the music cards and giggles in the aisles over how fun they are!  Karaoke in a card – how can you go wrong?!  I’ve been known to get down to a little Cool & The Gang at my local Hallmark.  When Jane was done with playtime and gathered her Christmas décor, a particular flyer hung up by the register with care caught her eye, in hopes that a donator soon would be there.  There sat this little baby – adorned with a red & white Santa getup, hands held at a position as if saying “Happy, happy, joy, joy!”, and a tongue-smile that will turn your worst day into a melting pot full of warm happy sugar cookie frosting goo.113pik

“And who is this little angel?”

The shopper was informed of the fundraiser that Annie’s Hallmark was holding in honor of their employee Laura’s niece.  Just a $1 donation would go towards a raffle honoring the National Down Syndrome Society who advocates for this baby’s inclusion in the world, and also honoring Lyla’s Early Intervention program in order to get some new therapeutic supplies into the hands of those who simply HELP.  The store was raffling off a prop that any child would jump onto for a big bear hug.  huskyHusky was ready to cheer a little one right up.

“Of course I’ll give! She is adorable. Merry Christmas.”

There with a whoosh of the Buffalo bone-chilling wind blowing the door shut walked an angel out of the store with a jingle jingle of the bell above her halo.  Straight out of It’s A Wonderful Life.  Little did she know she was going to be the winner of the raffle.  Little did we know we were going to be rewarded with a Christmas story for the books.2011-01-08 Jan Home 0022011-01-10 Jan Home 003a2011-01-10 Jan Home 007a2011-01-10 Jan Home 001a2011-01-10 Jan Home 006a

See Jane is a giving woman.  Not only did she give towards a wonderful cause in a heartbeat, but she lives it everyday.  Jane dedicates her work hours at a home for institutionalized kids.  Institutionalized – a word we often walk away from, rather not think about, pretend a place like that does not exist.  Some of these kids are enrolled because they are abandoned for special needs that their parents simply could not handle.  Some of the kids have Down syndrome.  Kids that just needed a home.  And giving Jane doesn’t walk away, she provides it for them.  2011-01-09 Jan Home 008 copy

When the winner’s smile joyfully drove into Annie’s Hallmark to collect her giant white fuzzy prize, she had a different plan in mind rather than what we all thought was just taking Husky home.  To continue on with her giving spirit, Jane informed the store she knew just what to do to make this special needs fundraiser a Christmas-kind of special.  Just what to do in order to exemplify that good deeds can multiply into 3,000 more good deeds if we keep an open mind to those in need.  See there is a little boy living just down the street from Jane that has Cerebral Palsy.  This little boy’s family was in the beginning stages of a fundraiser to help with the burdening medical bills that were stacking up like Pringles in the canister called their mailbox… that should have been only filled with snowman Christmas cards.  But Jane knew just how to turn those frowns upside down with her new swag.  Husky first greeted children as they walked into Hallmark, he then sparked an idea to pay it forward, and now Husky was going to be an incentive for others to join hands and help a family’s little miracle who needed some Christmas cheer more than all those that black sewn-on smile had previously encountered.  Kevin Spacey would be so proud.

As Christmas came to an end and Husky was now center stage spotlight of a new fundraiser, Annie’s Hallmark took a day to total up all of their hard work donation by donation.  The numbers kept climbing and climbing on the calculator, making some do a double take as to how much the better half of the world actually cared for others.  Simply said without any exaggeration needed, Annie’s Hallmark raised $2032 in 30 days. [Enter jaw drop here]  $2032 – Wow!  The best part?  They were $1 donations. 002web3 

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008web007web010webDon’t get me wrong, it wasn’t always as easy as patrons opening up their wallets faster than Charlie Sheen can find himself back into rehab.  I couldn’t help but chuckle with my mature sister, you-kill-me-with-your-ways kind of laugh when my younger sister told me of a couple instances where she wanted to climb over the counter and do a “Oh no you DIDN’!!” to the customer’s face for not letting her even get through the thoughtfully-practiced charity message intro.  An interrupted spiel trying to be nicely laid out over the $117 worth of disposable candy cane wrapping paper and matching gift tags.  That’s going to get thrown away quicker than toilet paper after it’s used.  That the recipient probably isn’t even going to notice because they’re too drunk off of Christmas Eve’s eggnog and Christmas morning’s mimosas (that’s me!).  Now I’m all for nicely decorated packages that let your recipient know you as the gift giver put a littl’ somethin’ extra to say they’re a littl’ somethin’ special to you.  But a $1 donation towards an independent future for a girl who looks at the world with pure curiosity isn’t even an option today?  All I can say is I only hope you have an ah-ha moment one day that will turn your views around.  …But Lulu’s words were a little more “harsh”.  Thank goodness they were only words in her head.  And I am happy to report she is still an employee at Annie’s.Lyla215web

But for the 2032 people who did open their hearts and wallets to help a little girl strive in this fast-paced world – bravo.  A little girl who they did not know personally.  A little girl who is deeply grateful.  She wishes she could hug you all. (And this is her latest and greatest trick – hugs on demand to mama!  You can imagine how my heart melted into that same sugar cookie frosting goo the time I realized she was doing these hugs intentionally to show the love.)  Thank you will never be enough for making a difference in Lyla’s days to come.  Days that I only hope are like this…2011-01-10 Jan Home 004BW

And as for Husky?  Well here comes the Haley Joel Osmond kicker of the whole story.  Jane and Husky went on to assist in raising $3,000 at a fundraising event for that little boy who needed a little holiday spirit in his mailbox.  Two kids who won are now snuggling that fluffy miracle dog at home, and I’m sure both will someday pay it forward once again because of the charity-driven past that little pup comes from.014web

One last holiday mention I promise - A Merry Christmas it was.  Thank you to all who participated in the fundraiser.  Especially to Auntie Lulu, Jackie, Joe, and the Annie’s Hallmark staff for keeping the dream alive for many you have never met.  And lastly to Jane, who has most certainly earned her wings.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Too Shall Pass

I usually walk around for a week with a particular subject brewing like a Keurig in my head on what I want to expand upon for my next post. I’ll pick out my Flavor of the Week cute pint-sized bag of coffee that I want to share the with the world (this week it’s Christmas-spiced Holiday Noggin – so freaking delicious). 2011-01-07 Jan Home 002 copyLike a coffee maker saturating those fresh java beans with steaming hot water for a few instances before frantically pouring out that first jet burst of chocolate liquid, I’ll let the aroma brew in my head to just the right point before it needs to explode. And I don’t know what it is about a shower, maybe it’s my own personal coffee maker, but I call that tub my Think Tank. There’s just something about the white noise of steaming, refreshing water that will make your mind go into deep thoughts overdrive.

I’m going to buy a nice camera and get into photography.

I should start another business doing it. Not because I need to make $$, but because I want to be a known artist for it.

Man, my stomach looks sad. I’m going to be Jillian Michaels tomorrow morning at the gym.

I need to be a better housewife this week – cooking, cleaning, get all Martha Stewart on this bitch.

It’s 2011 now…What am I going to do this year that’s profound?

The thoughts flow and flow as the water dribbles over, until I eventually wind up to my blog topic of the week I’ve stored at the end of the hot water tank. I’m usually throwing open the sopped shower curtain, jumping out soaking wet, trying to get to my laptop to spew out the words over the keyboard before I forget about these enlightening blog thoughts I’ve had in my Think Tank… but remember I need not ruin my recent $800 investment and dry my hands first. The coffee pot is filling up with my humble ideas on everyday instances we seem to pass by too easily. 2011-01-03 Jan Home 011aThis thing called life sometimes puts us into fast forward when we just need to press pause, and I hope for my blog to be that pause button for some. So I write, and write, and write. The clear glass is disappearing as the dark caffeine is taking over, slowing it’s pace into a gentle chocolate stream of a conclusion, and then trickling out those last few adjectives to clearly see into my head’s images just right. I let it sit for a few moments before realizing the right time on a quiet night to enjoy that invigorating cup of coffee, and hit Publish.

2011-01-05 Jan Home 016a2011-01-05 Jan Home 020aLyla discovering just how cool sun beams are.

I’ve had a particular flavored pot brewing of “This Too Shall Pass” in my head the last couple of weeks. One of my favorite reassuring sayings that I’ve found myself repeating quite a few times in life already. I forget where I heard it first in my teenage years – maybe on something wise like Forest Gump with it’s one liners that you could live your days by. But whatever it was, that saying stuck like a piece of gum to the bottom of my New Balance sneakers.

In times of grief when you must say not goodbye but “See you soon” to a loved one who’s closed their eyes one last time, with tears leaving glistening trails as they stream down your face, remember This Too Shall Pass. When a senior boy has crushed your 10th grade heart into 100 pieces and your naïve soul thinks it’s the end of the world, it was my first lesson of This Too Shall Pass. And boy did that pass. When your baby wakes up at 11pm, 1am, 1:30, 2:30, 4, and a sun-rising 5:30, you MUST remember This Too Shall Pass. The day you have to pull your forbidden fat jeans out of the closet - This Better Freaking Pass.2011-01-05 Jan Home 002a

I had been percolating these thoughts all week, when I found myself atop the red-cushioned balcony seating of Boston’s Colonial Theater for the theatrical show of Jersey Boys. The dance-in-your-seat musical was just as it should be – bad Jersey accents you could barely understand, slick 50’s hair greased up more than Paula Dean’s cast iron skillet, mobsters, gambling, and the music made from gods. Oh how those catchy tunes resonated in our heads for days to come… ‘Bii-iiig Giiirls, Doooon’t Cry-yi-yi”. Epic. But in one particular scene, Frankie Valli pulled the line straight out of my coffee pot.

“A da possa a nuttata. This too shall pass.”

Eureka, it’s a sign! The Broadway gods have said, Go write my child.

I can remember the early days of Lyla. Being in the hospital, so so happy, but dazed and confused. The words Down syndrome haunted me. Hell, I couldn’t even say them without a tear leaking from my fake strong eyes. Those two words lingered in my head like chicken wing bones stuck at the bottom of your garbage disposal – you know they’re not supposed to be there but you can’t get the damn things out for the life of you. Piles of literature took over all the end tables where stuffed animals should have been, adorable but “different” looking kids leaping from the pages and onto my hospital bed. There was just too much to read. I gave it all to my Dad. I needed the Cliff’s Notes in order to inhale the sweet smell of new baby, because I knew that This Too Shall Pass.

We got home as a new family of 3. Just what I had been waiting for during those impatient months of pregnancy. Except that every time I stared into my baby’s eyes, pathetically all I could see were those damn new words again. Why is this happening? What does this mean for her? What does this mean for us? It was a crazy, crazy time. Did I put up a fake front and pretend that everything was ok? Absofrickinlutely. I had a new baby to nurture and a husband to comfort. But somehow I endured knowing that This Too Shall Pass.

Sleep studies after suspicions of seizures with 50 electrodes hooked to her scalp and face. Countless EKG’s. Cardiologist appointments that will scare you to hell and back. Open heart surgery on your teeny 7-month old. Yeah, that one deserves to be repeated. Open heart surgery. This Too Shall Pass.

And pass it did.2011-01-05 Jan Home 046a2011-01-05 Jan Home 035a2011-01-05 Jan Home 042a2011-01-05 Jan Home 040a 2011-01-05 Jan Home 030a2011-01-05 Jan Home 039a

Each week the letters D and S started to disappear from her explosive eyes more and more. Eyes that are marbled with brilliant hues of gray, cornflower blue, emerald green, hazel, and bursts of ice white. We sit at 9 months to the day, and I say the words Down syndrome only once a week versus once an hour where we started. The focus is leaving the diagnosis. 2011-01-10 Jan Home 014aIt’s amazing how something consumed my thoughts in such a negative way, and has now turned into a special key that unlocked a better soul inside myself. Time has allowed me to see all of Lyla, including a small part that’s made up of a measly extra chromosome. No biggie.

2011-01-05 Jan Home 025 copyTrying with all her might to make that dragon fly.

The bad passes. And just like Frankie stated, the good will pass too. Trust me, I have my hard times and worry sessions after the good takes a dip. But I’m up for it. Bring on the rollercoaster called Life. I have an amazing daughter who is the heart of our family. She has shown us that the sweet ain’t as sweet without the sour (there we go again with the epic life quote from Vanilla Sky). So sour her medical world is, but so sweet that 17lb ball of curiosity that fills my day with warm love is.

Please hold onto this phrase when bad times arrive. This too shall pass for you as well. Don’t get a flat tire from the sour potholes of life. Simply dig into that rut with appropriate feelings, and let that car coast you through to those smooth new roads ahead that will take you places you’ve never seen before…but you must have your eyes open to get there. A da possa a nuttata.2011-01-05 Jan Home 037a

Dedicated to my dear friend Andrea. This too shall pass sweetie. Hugs.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Santa Baby

Here I am in the back seat Mom’s seat of our trusty 4-door sedan heading back over I-90 to Beantown after a week-long holiday tour in Buffalo.  The flicker of oncoming headlights are putting me into a trance as I mandatorily look up to ward off the car sickness that’s seeping into my gut.  My head is bursting with words after Lyla’s first Christmas experience.  So what else to do but type it all out on the 8-hour ride back?  Okay, 9 hours counting the newly acquired diaper pit stops we’ve picked up this year.

A Baby’s First Christmas. 

2010-12-24 Christmas '10 005pikA new mom can envision the dreamy day from the moment the little one is growing inside her tum.  (Minus the St. Pauli Girl bottle in the shot – nice job honey.)  We cannot wait to pass on the red & green decorated torch of excitement from the time we were a little girl counting down the days until Santa Claus was coming to town.  Going to pick out the biggest evergreen Dad could jam on the car roof while Mom knew it would jam into the living room ceiling, hanging up the 3-d felt calendar that you’d race down the stairs each December morning in order to beat your younger sister at hanging up the puffy wreath from slot #16 and onto the velcro tree, and of course squeezing out the overstuffed Toys R Us Holiday Catalog/Bible from the now undersized mailbox so that you could flood the pages with red-marker circles around all of the hottest toys you begged to be under your tree that year.  I think I would even write the catalog page number in my letter to Santa –

2)  GameBoy Travel Light p.63 section b

3)  Rollerblades in lime green/purple size 6 p.94 section d

Who does that?!  

2010-12-24 Christmas '10 011pik 2010-12-24 Christmas '10 014pik

2010-12-24 Christmas '10 025pikI can only envision our years to come of sending off Lyla’s letter to Santa from the red North Pole mailbox sitting quietly at the Post Office, setting out a plate of energy boosting carrots & celery for that Rudolph that we keep singing about, or watching the Santa Tracker on the 11:00pm Christmas Eve news right before I tuck her under the covers over those unbearably cute seasonal pj’s.  The excitement that fills the air on that magical Christmas Eve is like no other when you’re 7 years old. An excitement I’m sure is multiplied times 10 as you see it through your little girl’s 7-year old eyes. 

2010-12-24 Christmas '10 030pikHandmade stockings by Great Grandma Carol.  Think she’s improved since Troy’s 1981 rendition?

But rewind it back to 2010, where Lyla is only a wee 8-months old, and Mom & Dad get a “practice run” at this whole Santa’s Helper deal. 

Lesson 1:  Inspect all fragile gifts before walking out of the store with them, better yet an inspection before Christmas Eve at 9:00pm would be best.

Let’s just say her fish tank did not make it under the tree this year.  We told her Rudolph took too sharp of a turn into Hingham and forced Santa to bring the tank back to his workshop to have fixed just in time for her 1st birthday.  Damn reindeer.

2010-12-24 Christmas '10 017The before shot.2010-12-24 Christmas '10 020pikThe deceiving after shot.

It was a nice and relaxing Christmas.  Grandma & Grandpa Dolly spent the weekend with us as we declared to the family that such a momentous morning at our own home was in order for her first.  We read The Night Before Christmas as our bedtime book on that chilly December 24.  Christmas carols were a buzzin’ in the background.  It was so perfect I was waiting for the Christmas mouse that’s illustrated in the book to come out of a perfectly carved hole in our wall with his mini Santa hat on to join us for some cheese and wine.  Lyla impressed us with holding off her present-unwrapping excitement until 7am the next morning.  Bright colored toys and clothes were unveiled to a babe who was more into throwing around the crinkly tissue paper that costs $1.00.  And I loved how she took a nap midway through the monstrous pile of gifts she had laid out in front of her Bumbo perched self – my kind of girl.

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2010-12-24 Christmas '10 044Perfect gift to open during her morning nap. 2010-12-24 Christmas '10 050

She’s loving to gaze at the white wonderland outside our picturesque window during this time of year as well.  Why is it raining milk?, she ponders from the living room.  Love this moment I caught the other day as it was the first time she had seen snow. And was mesmerized.2010-12-20 Christmas '10 005pik

Oh, and it’s official….we have a jumper.  Even when the girlie is out of her new toy, she will jump in your arms with her new-found frog legs.  So freaking funny.

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2010-12-24 Christmas '10 058But the jumping was cut short as we packed up “Santa’s Sleigh” and headed to Buffalo to ring in the new year. 

2000-01-01 Christmas '10 DSLR 0122000-01-01 Christmas '10 DSLR 0142000-01-01 Christmas '10 DSLR 006And here marks the beginning of my DSLR world…

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2010-12-30 Christmas '10 DSLR 0142010-12-30 Christmas '10 DSLR 030The other rockstar – Lyla’s cousin Livi.

2010-12-30 Christmas '10 DSLR 0342010-12-30 Christmas '10 DSLR 0372010-12-31 Christmas '10 DSLR 0112010-12-31 Christmas '10 DSLR 0462011…wow.

It’s no secret that 2010 was such a year of change.  Change for the better.  Change for the right view on life.  One might look at our year as a pain-in-the-you-know-what move across the country, cramming into a house half the size from our last, a pregnancy interrupted with a replacement of all doctors, new jobs to figure out in an unknown city, a birth with a devastating diagnosis of Down syndrome, the daunting days of heart surgery, and a life turned upside down. 

But now let’s look at it from my new post-Lyla perspective: Troy’s hard work paying off with a promising new promotion, moving into a quaint waterfront house with views out of the movies over the ocean, being closer to oh-so-important family as they could feel our new member kick with a hand on my belly after a short drive over, the new adventure of Boston with it’s uncharted parks and old-town streets filled with salty air, the Down syndrome community that has OPENED OUR EYES and embraced us with open arms, a slice of heaven located between concrete walls called Children’s Hospital Boston that would seamlessly fix our little girl’s heart with ease, and our lives not turned upside down – but inside out.  All of the unimportant outside materials have been tucked underneath as life’s warm insides have shown us that love conquers all, generosity exists to be given to those in need, kindness is to be shown to strangers, open-mindedness for all that are human, and to look for the good in life.  I’m in love with our wake up call and am thankful for every 2010 decision that has gotten us here today.

So here’s to 2011.  I’m excited to see where new senses of hope and adventure will lead my newborn soul to.  New year.  New paths in the right direction.  New endless discoveries that may have been hidden if it weren’t for our little 2010 miracle.

2010-12-31 Christmas '10 DSLR 047Cheers to everyone and Happy New Year, New Me.